AUSTIN – The meter is still running as the Candlewood shelter racks up an ever-increasing fare while stalled along Pecan Park Boulevard.
An analysis by MOVE Candlewood, a coalition opposed to the transformation of the former hotel into Permanent Supportive Housing, found that the cost has jumped from an estimated $15 million to $17 million. See cost breakdown below.
By comparison, the downtown Salvation Army shelter with 130 to 150 beds was purchased for $15 million earlier this month. The Candlewood would have around 70 beds. MOVE Candlewood's analysis of costs incurred on the Candlewood conversion, based on documents obtained via several open records requests, is as follows:
PURCHASE PRICE: $ 9,560,263.75
CONSTRUCTION: $ 3,903,216.13
SECURITY & EXPENSES: $ 431,239.07
UTILITY & EXPENSES: $27,879.13
LEGAL SERVICES: $364.95
BUILDING SERVICES: $ 798.88
CONTRACT EXTENSION 11/30/23: $2,695,112.00
TOTAL: $ 16,618,873.91
The following statement may be attributed to MOVE Candlewood founder Rupal Chaudhari, whose family owns two adjacent hotels which share a parking lot with the Candlewood (Chaudhari is available for comment or interview upon request).
"We could have told the city this was a bad deal four years ago if we and our Northwest Austin neighbors were given any notice —which we were not. No letter, no rezoning hearing, and we even had to host our own town hall. They still don't do anything to measure the potential impact or talk to the neighbors, who are the ones really affected. What is wrong with this process?
"Numerous studies have cast doubt on Permanent Supportive Housing as an effective means of addressing homelessness. For nearly three years, we have demonstrated countless times how a shelter would be incompatible with the Pecan Park neighborhood, which would be located feet from schools, family residences, and small businesses. We have recommended workable alternatives, even on city-owned property and a hotel. We have discussed with city leaders how hotels are not easily converted into other uses to structural concerns. We have investigated other hotels-turned-shelters in Austin and saw first-hand how it destroys nearby businesses and attracts crime, drug use, homeless camping, litter, and loitering, particularly after the Northbridge shelter scandal. Our struggle has made local, state, and national headlines. Yet the City of Austin persists on pushing this rotten deal on us.
"Who knows how many additional costs the taxpayers will incur if the Candlewood ever opens, not to mention operations, legal, and liability expenses? And will the legal fees eventually include the costs of litigation from the lawsuit the Chaudhari Partnership and Williamson County filed against the city, and future appeals? There are so many questions and so many ways this $17 million price tag could go even higher before the doors even open!
"We call on the city to immediately halt construction on the Candlewood and save the money for a proven, effective solution, such as a Haven for Hope-style shelter in cooperation with Travis County. There are much better options if the city chooses to listen to Austin neighbors — and not just nonprofits with something to gain from lucrative government contracts."
Since January 2021, MOVE Candlewood has led the fight to Make Our Voices Equal in Austin. For more information on the struggle to stop the Candlewood from opening as a homeless shelter, please visit www.MOVECandlewood.com.